Running doubles as it is known, are a common practice among elite athletes, but is it right for you? We thought we’d try and help by weighing up all the pros and cons.
Adding mileage to your training
Most experts agree that running doubles can be an extremely effective way of adding to your weekly mileage, whilst lessening the impact on your body. For instance instead of doing one long 10 mile (16km) run, by doing two runs instead, you could increase your overall mileage that day to 13 miles (21km) with a morning run of 6 miles (9.6km) and an evening session of 7 miles (11.2km) instead.
Physiologically, it’s much easier to do two separate, faster runs, rather than one longer run all at once.
By splitting the runs in this way there are several advantages. You end up running further than you might originally have planned and more often than not cover those miles in a faster time with less strain on the body. The reality is that physiologically, it’s much easier to do two separate, faster runs, rather than one longer run all at once and that is why splitting your efforts can also help you become a faster runner.
The mental boost you can get from two good shorter runs is another bonus. There are few worse feelings for a runner than getting back from a long run and feeling like you were fighting it all the way round.
The converse though is also true. Imagine walking through the front door feeling like you just smashed a session and having that feeling twice in one day! Two smaller, faster sessions give you the opportunity to feel good about your running.
Running doubles definitely places an additional load on the body in terms of recovery and stamina. It encourages the body to respond faster, both in terms of recovery from the first run, but also in terms of glycogen use and reproduction. A morning run will stimulate blood flow to the legs for the later session. And if you use your first session as a tempo run, then the second session can flush out any lingering lactic acid and toxins, so that the next run after that will feel great. Alternatively you can use your first run as a loosening up session and then really hit the road hard and fast for your second run.
Women who exercised with two runs rather than one, found that their metabolic rates were higher than those who only ran once
Weight loss is another potential benefit. According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine women who exercised with two runs rather than one, found that their metabolic rates were higher than those who only ran once. Additional research has also found that forcing the body to exercise when it is tired can actually help you run faster and burn fat more efficiently. All of which means it’s important to make sure you eat and drink well after your first run, to make sure you are prepared nutritionally for your second.
Having said all of that, there are of course risks associated with doubling up your sessions. Running doubles tends to be something that is better suited to more experienced runners who have plenty of miles and aerobic fitness under the belt and have a high weekly mileage. It would definitely not be a good idea for a running newbie. Remember you will be asking questions of your body and muscles that could lead to stress injuries or overtraining issues. The important thing it to make sure you monitor how you feel when you start running doubles and keep an eye on your body for signs of physical breakdown.
How to get started with running doubles
If you haven’t tried running doubles before and you are interested, the best approach is to integrate it carefully into your regular routine. A great deal of runners initially use doubles on easy days as a form of recovery running after the most difficult workouts, and that might be a good place to start. But once you have spent a little time getting used to the additional workload on certain days, you can use doubles in all sorts of different ways, depending on your targets and training programme.
However it is never a good idea to double up on your long run day. That session needs to remain a stand-alone long distance effort because of the physiological benefits and improvements that kind of endurance session will bring to your training, especially if you are aiming for the marathon and maybe even beyond.